Mathematics and Computer Science
How did you find out that you could do research in your field in the summer?
I talked with the helpful staff at the career center and found advice on the mathematics subreddit.
How did you know that research at NIST was what you wanted to do?
I attended an information session regarding the SURF program in November and read up on the program through the career center’s website. These gave such high praise of the program that I was convinced to apply.
Did you apply to other places?
I applied to seven other places, though I made a list of more than 15 possible places to apply. I also applied to various internships unrelated to research in case I was not accepted to any research position.
Was the application difficult to do? Did you have help with this?
The application was not difficult, though I wouldn’t describe it as fun. I had my essay reviewed by a previous SURF researcher and Janet McGlynn. I also had my resume reviewed multiple times by the career center and my peers.
What was your summer research project?
I am designing a python scripting feature into the NICE neutron beam client. Currently there exists a piece of software named “NICE” that is used to control the different instruments at the Neutron Research Center (NCNR). I am designing a feature that would allow users to create custom scripts written in the python programming language to control their experiments. This would allow pro-users to have more control over their project and design more complicated procedures.
Who is your mentor for your research, scholarship, or artistic project?
Mr. Stephen Pheiffer of the Neutron Research Center at NIST.
How much time do you put into this work? Are you paid?
I am scheduled to work eight hour days but often work through my lunch because I am so interested in getting my project. This is a paid summer position.
What academic background did you have before you started?
I had some background in computer science, but I had a lot more knowledge about math and English.
How did you learn what you needed to know for this project?
Google, talking to my mentor, reading documentation, poking at things ’till they break and then figuring out why.
What was the hardest part about your research?
Working with code that other people have written is hard. In comp sci classes everything you make is yours 100%, if something is weird then it doesn’t really matter since you will be the only one working with it. In my project, if something is weird, or simply just wrong, there may be no way of figuring out the rationale behind it. The code could have been written many years ago and simply forgotten about, or the person could have left entirely. This experience made me put a lot of emphasis on how my code would look to other people. I believe this has made me a better programmer overall.
What was the most unexpected thing?
The level of independence I was given in my project.
How does this research relate to your course work?
It puts into practice a lot of ideas discussed in my programming class, and occasionally requires the type of reasoning taught in mathematics.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Apply to as many places as you can, talk to your recommenders early, get eyes on your essays and resume as frequently as possible, do it early in your academic career.